Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SpongeBob is bad???

Duh!  Here is some new research confirming what most people with a brain already knew!

Internal vs. External Discipline

I was in the grocery store the other day as was a mother with her two children.  The children were running through the store, screaming, and knocking things over!  As I approached a couple in the next isle over I overheard one of them saying, "that lady needs to discipline her kids".  And by discipline she meant punish.  I could tell by the look on her face and the tone of her voice that she wasn't saying that mom needed to teach her children something.

The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, meaning teaching or instruction.  Many modern definitions include the word punishment, however the original meaning of the word discipline did not include punishment, but rather teaching to improve or gain a skill or improve a behavior.  Maria Montessori talks about discipline being the result of choosing activities which promote one's own development.  She considered discipline to be a path that one takes not a fact of what one is.

As you can see, from the Montessori perspective, discipline is very different than the traditional perspective which is found in most schools and homes.  The distinction is found between the two "types" of discipline, internal and external.

Internal discipline is one of the desired results of Montessori education.  It is behavior that is driven by the self and comes from within.  Montessori believed that the way for children to find the path of internal discipline was for them to have freedom to make choices for themselves following their inner teacher.  This freedom does not mean that the children can do whatever they want.  Freedom comes with limits; the greater interest of the group comes first and knowledge precedes choice.  The children are given lessons, knowledge, on how to use the materials in the classroom and then they have the freedom to choose the materials that call to them each day.  They then work independently, learning concepts from the materials.  When the child is independent they are allowed to find inner discipline instead of having to look for it elsewhere.  Basically, if you constantly tell a child what to do and what not to do, then they never have the opportunity to make those decisions on their own.  They will forever be dependent on other people to tell them what to do.  They are dependent on an external source for discipline.

These children who are constantly told what to do may "behave" very well, they are a positive example of external discipline.  Others don't fare as well.  If the only thing you want is for your child to behave, then external discipline might be the answer for you.  In fact, this is very common and traditional in our society.  One of the most famous, or largest, examples of this is the military.  Many parents encourage their children to join the military because they want them to learn discipline.  Do they learn discipline from someone constantly directing their every behavior?  I guess it is a matter of opinion!  If they are taught "good" habits and they continue with these behaviors after they leave the military then they have a sense of internal discipline, but if they get out and can't make good choices, one might say that they didn't learn discipline at all.  The message is that discipline should teach not punish.  Jane Nelson, author of the Positive Discipline series of books, say that for discipline to be effective it must empower children to make good choices for themselves.  She stresses that you don't have to make children feel bad to do better.  We need to teach children what to do, instead of constantly telling them what not to do!

Just think, if the lady in the grocery store had taken time before her shopping trip to teach her children how to behave in that setting everyone might have had a more peaceful experience, including the children!